Up until now, we have been focusing on the fourth amendment violations of the FISA Amendments Act. However, as I was reading through the statement of Congressman Rick Larsen, it occurred to me that there’s a lot more in the Constitution that is being violated than just one amendment in the Bill of Rights.
There’s the status of the three branches of government as co-equal and checking each other’s power. There’s clear ban on retroactive laws in Article 1, Section 9, which includes the direct statement, ” No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.”
There is also something much more basic, and more modern, in the Constitution that is being violated: The right to equal justice.
Section 1 of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution states, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Section 5 of the same amendment says that Congress has the power to enforce Section 1.
Representative Larsen wrote of the FISA Amendments Act,
“Americans who may have been the targets of illegal surveillance have the right to a fair hearing in a federal court. But as a result of this bill, the Bush Administration could be let off the hook for its warrantless wiretapping program. The question our federal courts should be allowed to decide – free from congressional intervention — is whether the law was broken, not whether the Administration wrote permission slips to break it.”
The right to equal protection of the laws doesn’t just mean that it’s unconstitutional to pass discriminatory laws against some groups of Americans. It also means that it’s unconstitutional to pass laws that give certain groups special impunity to violate the law. Having laws apply to some of us, but not to others, isn’t equal protection.
The FISA Amendments Act gives telecommunications corporations the retroactive privilege of violating the law by spying on Americans. I don’t get that right, though, and neither do you.
What do we get with the FISA Amendments Act? We get our right to a day in court taken away from us. That’s what Congressman Larsen was talking about.
You see, the crimes that the FISA Amendments Act tries to retroactively legalize were crimes committed against millions of Americans. That means that the chances are good that the illegal spying conducted by these telecommunications corporations included spying against you.
If the FISA Amendments Act is passed, you and I lose the right to seek legal compensation for a serious violation of our rights. That is not equal protection under the law.